“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
This is God’s greatest invitation to humanity. There has been many who have seen and heard this invitation, and instead of worshipping God, they end up throwing their fists angrily up at God. They say, “I tried Jesus, and He doesn’t come through for me. I still have lots of problems and my life isn’t any easier.” If you feel that way too, my prayers are with you. Can you spend a few moments with me to look again carefully at two aspects of Jesus’ invitation to all of us?
What is a yoke and the invitation?
A yoke is a tool for work. It is a wooden harness that a farmer would use to join two animals together.
Jesus used the metaphor of a yoke because the religious leaders would put a yoke of 613 laws around the necks of people—demanding all of them to be obeyed to be accepted and loved by God (cf., Matthew 23:4; Acts 15:10). Jesus never desires external obedience without heart transformation. Thus, He gives this stunning invitation to take on His yoke.
A good farmer would have the yoke collar custom-made for each animal. Too tight and it will choke the animal. Too loose and the collar will slide around making the pulling of weight difficult.
The yoke collar Jesus provides for all who will surrender themselves daily to Him as Master is custom-made as He knows us intimately and personally. The yoke collar He gives us is designed for His glory and our good. He allows only those trials and triumphs in our lives that will shape us to be more like Jesus and to be mature and complete, lacking in nothing (cf., James 1:2-4).
And the emphasis here on Jesus’ yoke is not on an external device, but on His personal presence. He Himself will be in the other side of the yoke… as the calling is to “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (vs. 29).
Being yoked to Jesus does not promise a cessation of work or hardships but delivers an invitation to life with Jesus in discipleship!
Why is His yoke easy and His burden light?
A good farmer carefully decides which animals are paired together. Oftentimes, an older, more experienced, and stronger animal will be coupled with a younger animal that needs to know how to work and live as an animal useful to its master.
Two oxen that are yoked together can surprisingly pull more weight together than they can do on their own. This is because of the paradoxical principle of synergy, which is true not only in farming, but in math, economics, biology and even Christianity.
Jesus is not just a little bit older or a little bit stronger than us. And Jesus does not need our help to pull any weight. He is the Co-Creator of heaven and earth, the Son of God who is Head over the Church (cf., Colossians 1:15-18) and the King of Kings (cf., Revelation 1:5). But if you are in the yoke with Jesus, how much more can you do with Him as opposed to being apart from Him?
Yes, the challenges we face on earth will be heavy and there will be tears of sweat as we work and tears of sadness as we grieve but following Jesus as our Savior means we have this soul rest that the world cannot give. Are you experiencing His rest by being yoked to Him?
Ben Wong is a TCA alumni parent and the Senior Pastor of Asian American Baptist Church in Richardson. He is blessed to be married to Lisa (Director of Technology at TCA) and to have our two kids, Nicholas '17 and Clarissa '19.